Should I give up on American universities and settle for a uni in my home country?

(Edits to fix grammatical mistakes)
Yesterday, I posted a Chance Me, writing in detail my stats/ECs/financial situation. I have gotten some useful (but brutally honest, which I appreciate) replies and I realized that I really had overlooked the financial aspect. Basically, my family’s income is about $120,000, I am an international student, and my parents are only willing to pay $20,000 a year at absolute maximum. Before, I had vaguely thought that I would find a solution once I get in. However, now, I know that I have to think about this ASAP because if I don’t, I will get into some colleges but have nowhere to go because of the financial aspect. Today, I asked my mother to have a serious conversation with me on the tuition costs and asked her if there was a way we could afford more, and her answer was a definite no, which I completely understand (I don’t want to put my parents under a lot of financial burden either).
I started looking at some other colleges that are a bit lower in rank but might offer me some merit scholarship, like one particular scholarship at Oberlin College designated for students from Japan. At the same time, I understand that getting merit scholarships from non T-20 schools is still extremely hard.
Finally on to my question, with all of the above things in mind. Is it time to give up on going to an American university? I think I faced the brutal reality today that even if I might get into some really good schools, I will probably not be able to afford any of them. I’ve always enjoyed the American education style more than the Japanese one (f it I used to hide my country of origin but I’m too lazy now), and even after I have lived in five different countries and gone through numerous styles, I can still say with confidence that the American style fits me the most. Still, my mother and father told me a few hours ago that it’s important to understand our family’s situation and the fact that sometimes, life doesn’t go the way you want it to. So should I officially give up on going to an American university? I worked really hard on my SAT, APs, GPA, ECs for this, so it is a shame and I really don’t know the best course of action to take here.
I apologize for the lengthy post and any grammatical mistakes I might have made along the way. I’m just very overwhelmed and stressed right now, not knowing what the heck I am supposed to do.
Last note: Just to avoid confusion, I’ll give some details on the overview of Japanese universities. The tuition is about $4,000~$6,000 a year, and because I am a returnee (Japanese student living and going to a school abroad), I get a special status and thus the application process is much less rigorous than that of a typical Japanese high school student. I am exempt from all the typical entrance exams, and all I have to do is turn in some stats. My current stats basically guarantee an admission in any of the Japanese universities.

I just looked at your previous post and you appear to be a competitive applicant. I think being Japanese should be a (slight) plus because there aren’t many applications from Japan to US colleges (vs. South Korea, China and India). You also have an interesting background. So, I would encourage you to give it a shot.

Financially, Swarthmore, Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill and UVA also offer full merit scholarships to international students (but highly competitive) and might be worth considering. If things don’t work out for undergraduate study, you could try again for graduate school.

Good luck!

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Consider Japanese universities your safeties.
Then, add other universities of interest that are within budget - those could be universities in the different countries you’ve lived in, or universities in Canada, Australia, or Europe that offer programs in English.
For instance, if your stats basically guarantee you admission to Japanese universities and you’re aiming for Top50 universities/LACs, you likely have the stats to get into McGill, Waterloo, UToronto, and/or UBC.
Then you could try your luck at a variety of American universities, understanding that if they don’t come within budget, then they’re out for you.
Consider in particular universities that guarantee a full-tuition grant for students whose families make 125K or less, such as Rice. Since you’d apply as an international student, you’d be among an insanely competitive pool, but it’s worth a try.
At Cornell, look into ILR or CALS rather than CAS or COE.
Oberlin is going to be very, very competitive too. Basically any university and LAC within the USNWR Top 50 is going to be very competitive for international applicants who need a lot of aid.
However, since you’ve prepared for so long and have a strong background making it possible that could get in, I don’t think you should give up now. Simply keep your odds in mind, have several Japanese universities or international universities lined up so you have a choice, then carefully choose a variety of US universities.
BTW did you graduate in April, will you graduate in November, or will you graduate next year (April or June)?


Take a look at scholarship offered by Wesleyan

@MYOS1634 gives great advice: build a list from the bottom up. Think hard about the trade-offs: the schools that are most likely to give you the best merit aid are less fancy names- but can still give you a great education! The great thing about a history major is that more places have good programs than not.

Schools that are ‘need aware’ but that will ‘meet need’ for international students are worth looking at (ie, places like Amherst, Williams, Swarthmore, Davidson, Colgate, Vassar, URichmond, Duke).

Check out unis in the middle of the US, which are often overlooked by international students & more likely to be interested in the diversity you bring (ie, places like Kenyon, Carleton, Grinnell, Macalaster, Denison).

In short: don’t give up, just work on figuring out what trade offs you are willing to make, and build from the bottom up. Do apply to some of the big reaches- you are a viable candidate! - but put the hard work into working out a range of options.


Thank you so much for the thoughtful response, I’m looking into the universities you mentioned:) I will be graduating in June of next year.

Hi, I live in Japan (I used to say “Asia,” but, like you, I have become lazy!) so understand what you’re thinking about. Among Japanese schools, as I’m sure you know, there are a few that are more “Western” in approach, like ICU, so be sure to look at those. As to the US, I think you will likely find success if you cast a wide enough net. As you mention Oberlin, it seems you are open to LACs. If I were you, I would look at all the Midwest LACs - many are mentioned above - as they often offer generous merit and they may be looking for the kind of diversity you would bring. I recall hearing a Purdue AO who was visiting Tokyo a few years ago say that Japanese students may have a demographic edge in both the Midwest and the Northeast. Many of the top schools in the NE do not offer merit, but look at Connecticut College and Trinity College, which do (there are others as well, I’m just not that knowledgeable). California schools are on the opposite end of the scale - it seems every international student in Japan wants to go to one school or the other in California. Look at the Pacific Northwest schools - Whitman, in particular, has a strong focus on Japan, but also look at the University of Puget Sound and Lewis & Clark. Trinity University in San Antonio,Texas is another interesting school that offers good merit to high-performing students. Along with the Canadian schools, you could also consider schools in the UK, which are quite a bit cheaper than US schools.

I’m editing this to add that you should look at some schools that offer Early Action. We received responses in November that included generous merit offers, which was enormously reasuring - just off the top of my head, among schools already mentioned, Trinity University, College of Wooster, University of Puget Sound, Lewis & Clark offer Early Action. So does Eckerd in Florida, a school that people rave about on CC that might be very interested in you. Also, Lawrence in Wisconsin, another school with an international focus. You can find the complete list if you google “Early Action Schools.”


Look at the Canadian Universities they are cheaper than US
Also Temple has a campus in Tokyo where you can do a 4 year degree or do part and transfer to US campus

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Do you want to go to school in the US if you can’t go to a T-20 school? There are schools where you could get a lot of aid and will come in under $20k but may not be what you are looking for. Public schools in the west (Wyoming, New Mexico, AZ and Nevada) and the south (Ole Miss, Alabama, Oklahoma) might have programs that interest you and provide good financial aid.

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I want to second the above suggestions to consider Midwestern (and other) Liberal Arts Colleges that give merit (you mentioned Oberlin, and there are several on that list of a similar caliber). In fact, Grinnell is ranked 13 but gives generous merit (on a selective basis, of course). This is what we did with our daughter who wanted a LAC experience but we needed merit to afford one. She ended up being accepted into every single one she applied to with generous merit or a mix of merit and need-based aid, which made most of them affordable. Our situation is different, of course, because we’re US citizens, but it’s definitely worth a try. These colleges offer an excellent education, on par with T20 universities, or even better in some cases.

There are some solid universities where you might get a surprising amount of aid: Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Florida State, and many others. Take a shot so you don’t have any regrets.